Category Archives: Suspense

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) & Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964): Otto Preminger/Bryan Forbes -‘A Conspiracy of Madness': Part 1

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Doll-maker: “This doll had almost been loved to death. You know, love inflicts the most terrible injuries on my small patients.”

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965)

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Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) (British) is director/producer Otto Preminger’s psychological thriller, considered to be part of the noir cannon or Post-Noir yet embraces the suspense thriller sub-genre. A thriller about a little girl who may or may not exist! The film deals with the dread of losing yourself, not being believed, childhood nightmares which are rooted in the sense of lack of safety in the environment where they should be protected.

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Starring Carol Lynley (The Cardinal 1963, Shock Treatment 1964,The Shuttered Room 1967) as Ann Lake and Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey 1968, Black Christmas 1974) as brother Stephen Lake, the Americans who relocate to London and exude a mysteriously emotionless manner even when they act frenzied, enraged or frantically distressed.

The film also stars Laurence Olivier as Superintendent Newhouse, Martita Hunt as retired head schoolmistress Ada Ford, Anna Massey as the uptight Elvira Smollett, Clive Revill as Sergeant Andrews, playwright Noel Coward as Horatio Wilson, the lewd, drunken, seedy and lecherous Landlord who is creepy and inappropriate as he carries his little dog Samantha around with him everywhere. He’s also got a wicked whip collection… one which was once owned by the ‘master himself’ the Marquis de Sade.

Otto Preminger and Laurence Olivier on the set of Bunny Lake

Otto Preminger and Laurence Olivier on the set of Bunny Lake

Preminger and Noel Coward on the set of Bunny Lake

Otto Preminger and Noel Coward who plays the lascivious Horatio Wilson on the set of Bunny Lake Is Missing.

Finlay Currie plays the kindly old Doll Maker, Adrienne Corri  is the disagreeable Dorothy,and Lucie Mannheim plays the irascible German cook.

Preminger filmed Bunny Lake Is Missing in stunning black & white using a widescreen format on location in London, hiring Director of Photography and cameraman Denys Coop (The Third Man 1949, Saint Joan 1957, Lolita 1962 and Billy Lair 1963) and Production Designer Don Ashton.

The story is based on the mystery novel by Marryam Modell  using the pseudonym Evelyn Piper (who also wrote the novel, The Nanny 1965  brilliantly adapted to the screen starring Bette Davis as a very sympathetic yet disturbed nanny) With a screenplay by John and Penelope Mortimer, Preminger adapted Piper’s original novel and re oriented the story taking it out of New York and placing it in heart of London.

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Seth Holt directs my favorite- Bette Davis in The Nanny- 1965’s adaptation of Marryam Modell’s novel

The incredibly striking, simplistic and evocative score was composed by Paul Glass (Lady in a Cage 1964) and used not only in the opening titles designed effectively by the great Saul Bass but the theme is used frequently as a childlike refrain, poignant and moving. The British group The Zombies also appear in a television broadcast, featuring three of their songs, “Remember You”, “Just Out of Reach” and “Nothing’s Changed.”

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No one designs a title sequence like Saul Bass… each one evocative, primal… yet simplistic at it’s very core

Hope Bryce (Anatomy of a Murder 1959, Exodus 1960, Advise and Consent 1962) was responsible for the Costume design.

A standout performance is Martita Hunt, the wonderful British character actress who was in Boris Karloff’s Thriller episode as the batty aunt Celia Sommerville in The Last of The Summervilles. Here, she plays the school’s eccentric retired old headmistress Ada Ford who listens incessantly to recordings of little children who tell their nightmares and dreams recorded on her reel to reel tape machine.

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The fabulous Martita Hunt as the batty Celia Sommerville co-starring Phyllis Thaxter as the cunning cousin Ursula Sommerville in one of the great episodes of Boris Karloff’s anthology television series THRILLER.

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Columbia Pictures actually wanted Otto Preminger to cast Jane Fonda as Ann Lake, and Fonda was very anxious to play the role, but Preminger insisted on using Carol Lynley.

Carol Lynley as ann lake

Carol Lynley as Ann Lake

Much like the hype of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, audiences were not allowed to tell the film’s ending. The film’s poster promoted a tagline “No One Admitted While the Clock is Ticking” I will also choose not to reveal the film’s coda in this post, so as not to give away the culmination of the film’s secrets or it’s finale.

This was one of Preminger’s last films with a Noir milieu, since The Man With The Golden Arm 1955 starring Frank Sinatra.

Preminger and Frank Sinatra on the set of Man With The Golden Arm

Preminger and Frank Sinatra on the set of Man With The Golden Arm (1955)

Within the film’s openness, and it’s various environments, it appears that several of the frames are cluttered with visual odds and ends and bits and pieces, the sequence with the unbroken view of dolls, Wilson’s African masks and whips all evidence of the film’s sense of Fetishism.

Bunny Lake is Missing has a visual openness and fluidity which gives the film a striking dimension. The sweeping camerawork is familiar from the noir days of Preminger’s epic Laura (1944), although here it breaks away more completely from the enclosed environs of the 40s noir film.

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Premingers iconic noir Laura

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Preminger’s iconic noir classic Laura (1944)

Denys Coop’s diligent camera seems to peek into corners, moving through doors and up and down those iconographic STAIRS becoming part of the film’s fretful and apprehensive rhythm. Coop uses peculiar camera angles and lights his subjects from below in order to distort the mood, and throw odd uncomfortable shadows on their faces.

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An odd angle as the camera catches Ann Lake coming up the iconographic noir stairs. The visual Images are often a little skewed in Bunny Lake

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While Ann talks with the quirky Ada Ford, her face is lit from underneath giving her an ethereal, fairy tale like glimmer

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING: THE SYNOPSIS

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A single American mother Ann Lake (Carol Lynley relocates to London England to live with her journalist brother Stephen (Keir Dullea), Ann drops off her four year old daughter Felicia nicknamed ‘Bunny’ on the first day at her new nursery school “The Little People’s Garden.” When Ann returns to see how Bunny is getting on in school, she can not find a teacher or administrator present, except for a cranky German cook who is complaining about serving Junket (which is essentially gruel) played by Lucie Mannheim. Ann is forced to leave Bunny unsupervised in the building’s ‘first day’ room under the promise by the cranky cook that she will look after the child. Ann must rush to meet the movers who are awaiting her at the new apartment. When Ann returns in the afternoon to pick up her little girl, the cook has quit, and she becomes distressed when Bunny is no where to be found and the school’s employees Elvira Smollett (Anna Massey) and Dorothy (Adrienne Corri) who are left in charge fervently obstruct Ann’s attempts at locating Bunny even denying that the little girl was ever at the school in the first place. No one remembers having seen her. This creates a mood of distrust and paranoia.

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Ann desperately calls her brother Stephen for help. Ann and Stephen were raised without a father, and Ann never married the man who got her pregnant. She and Bunny have depended on Stephen to take care of them. Brother Stephen becomes enraged by the carelessness of the school’s staff, but Scotland Yard begins to investigate the matter. In walks police superintendent Newhouse acted thoughtfully by Laurence Olivier assisted by Sergeant Andrews played by Clive Revill. Newhouse begins searching through the Lake’s belongings and the details of their lives trying to uncover what seems to be a mystery as to whether the child ever existed at all. He discovers that Ann once had an imaginary childhood daughter named Bunny, but even more odd is that there seems to be no presence of Bunny’s belongings at the Lake’s residence.

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Little Bunny’s hair brush and comb set out on the bathroom shelf…

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Where are Bunny’s things???? A taste of female hysteria and maternal paranoia.

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Does the curious headmistress Ada Ford know more about Bunny’s disappearance than she’s telling or is she just one of the plot’s red herrings?

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Retired head mistress Ada Ford who has a fantastical grasp of the inner workings of a child’s nightmares. Inhabited perfectly by wonderful character actress Martita Hunt

There are several red herrings which are inserted into the plot to divert us away from the truth. One such red herring involves retired headmistress, the eccentric Ada Ford played by the marvelous Martita Hunt who seems to have an odd sensibility about children and an acute understanding of childhood motivations which is quickly picked up on by the plasticine yet cold-blooded Stephen Lake.Yet another odd character in the mix is the lecherous landlord Horatio Wilson an aging writer and radio actor played by Noel Coward who revels in his African Fertility Masks and let’s himself into the Lakes apartment at will, in a perpetual state of inebriation lurking about making lewd gestures and propositions to Ann. He also has a collection of whips, exhibiting signs of his sadomasochistic proclivities.

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Horatio Wilson (Noel Coward) is a peculiar sort… as he intrudes on Ann’s world

All these strange characters give Inspector Newhouse a lot to digest, as he tries to eliminate all the possible suspects while trying to find a trace of Bunny that proves she actually does exist, not discounting the idea that Ann Lake is a delusional hysterical woman.

Lewis Wayne Gallery Lobby Cards Bunny Lake

Ann and Stephen tell Inspector Newhouse that Bunny’s passport and all her belongings have also gone missing, assumed stolen during the mysterious burglary in the apartment. Another odd detail which doesn’t support Ann’s truly having raised this missing child, is that the school’s authorities claim that they never received a tuition check for a Bunny Lake.

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Ann shows Stephen the voucher for the Doll Hospital where Bunny’s doll is being repaired. Proof that she exists? Traces of an incestuous bond from the bathtub…

Ann finally remembers that she has a ticket for the Doll Hospital where she took Bunny’s doll. She remembers this during a scene where Stephen is taking a bath, and brother and sister are both just smoking and talking like a married couple. The film constantly hints at traces of a very incestuous relationship, creepily manifested in several scenes, Stephens physical contact with Ann when he tries to comfort her and one other such overt scene while Stephen is taking his bath…

Lobby Card Bunny Lake

Bunny Lake Lobby Card 54

Ann runs out into the dark and ominous London nightlife to try and get the doll from the repair hospital so she can show the police that Bunny owned a doll, reasoning that this will prove she exists.

Ann at the doll hospital

Continue reading


Postcards From Shadowland’s Big Fat No.10

Alexandra Schmidt in Mother Kraus' jounrey to happiness mutter-krausens-fahrt-ins-gluck-schmidt

Alexandra Schmidt in ‘Mother Krause’s Journey to Happiness’ (1929)

all-about-eve-anne-baxter-bette-davis-marilyn-monroe-richard carlson-george sanders-celeste holm

Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s brilliant satire- All About Eve (1950) starring the inimitable Bette Davis as Margo Channing and Ann Baxter as the cunning Eve Harrington.

All's Quet on the Western Front

Director Lewis Milestone’s All’s Quiet on the Western Front-(1930) starring Lew Ayres

anatomy of murder scene

Otto Preminger’s riveting court room noir Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

battleship-potemkin-odessa-steps-sergei-eisenstein

Battleship Potemkin (1925) Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece about the great Russian naval mutiny.

Brute Force

Jule’s Dassin’s brutal noir masterpiece Brute Force (1947)

Cat-on-a-Hot-Tin-Roof-elizabeth-taylor-scene

Richard Brooks adaptation of Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

DameJudith:MrsDanvers

Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca 1940

janet-leigh-touch-of-evil-charlton-heston

Orson Welles’ film classic Touch of Evil (1958)

notre-dame-hunchbackLaughton

William Dieterle’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939

kiss of death

Henry Hathaway’s disturbing noir classic Kiss of Death 1947

Laura

Otto Preminger’s quintessential noir Laura (1944)

Lee Remick in Experiment in Terror 1960

Blake Edwards Experiment in Terror 1960

Earth Vs The Spider

Bert I. Gordon’s Earth Vs The Spider 1958

Dracula's Daughter

Lambert Hillyer’s understated yet powerfully erotic horror classic Dracula’s Daughter 1936

Linda darnell no way out

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s taut and thought provoking social noir No Way Out 1950

little-caesar-edward-g-robinson

Mervyn LeRoy’s gangster odyssey Little Caesar 1931

Day the earth stood still robert wise

Robert Wise’s Science Fiction masterpiece The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

long dark hall

Reginald Beck and Anthony Bushell’s suspenseful The Long Dark Hall 1951

loretta-young-lon-chaney-laugh-clown-laugh

Herbert Brenon’s beautiful Laugh, Clown, Laugh 1928

m-peter-lorre-

Fritz Lang’s notorious psychological thriller M (1931)

Monday Nights with Oscar

Otto Preminger’s noir masterpiece about addiction The Man with the Golden Arm 1955

allison hayes Attack of the 50 foot woman

Nathan Juran’s iconic 50s campy sci-fi romp Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

marsha-hunt-actress-raw-deal-john-ireland

Anthony Mann’s noir classic Raw Deal (1948)

Mother Joan of the Angels

Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s surreal and transcendent Mother Joan of the Angels 1961

Nancy Kelly in The Bad Seed

Mervyn LeRoy’s naughty tale about a child psychopath. The Bad Seed (1956)

naked kiss2

Samuel Fuller’s irreverent noir gem The Naked Kiss (1964)

odd+man+out+1947

Carol Reed’s intense noir thriller Odd Man Out (1947)

Norma Desmond

Billy Wilder’s iconic film noir masterwork of grand proportions Sunset Blvd (1950)

orphee-jean-marais

Jean Cocteau’s stunning Orpheus (1950) Orphée

outofthepas

Jacques Tourneur’s hauntingly mesmerizing noir Out of the Past (1947)

Peggy Cummings Gun Crazy

Joseph E. Lewis Gun Crazy or Deadly is the Female (1950)

penny_serenade

George Steven’s sadness and joyful Penny Serenade (1941)

frankenstein

James Whale’s campy take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1931

the+black+cat

Edgar G. Ulmer’s sadistic and transgressive journey into horror The Black Cat 1934

vampyr

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s masterful vision of quiet uncanny horror Vampyr (1932)

prowler-tale

Joseph Losey’s titillating noir The Prowler ((1951)

photo-Les-Diaboliques-1954-3

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s brilliantly chilling Les-Diaboliques-1955

Seance

Bryan Forbes’ compelling suspense thriller Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Seven Chances

Buster Keaton’s fantastic Seven Chances (1925)

SCARFACE (1932)

Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson’s SCARFACE (1932)

sparrows-mary-pickford

William Beaudine’s haunting Sparrows (1926)

Bride of Frankestein

James Whales even campier and finest work The Bride of Frankenstein 1935

streetcar-named-desire-leigh-brando

Elia Kazan’s volatile theme of desolation and passion based on Tennessee William’s play A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

SUNSET BOULEVARD

some more divine SUNSET BOULEVARD 1950

the nymph ward shock corridor

Samuel Fuller’s edgy Shock Corridor (1963)

old-dark-house-karloff-stuart

Jame’s Whale’s The Old Dark House 1932

They-Live-By-Night

Nicholas Ray’s incredibly beautiful film noir journey They Live By Night (1948)

Theo and Eleanor

Robert Wise’s uncompromising ghost story adapted from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting (1963)

white-heat-james-cagney-600x450

Raoul Walsh’s iconic crime thriller White Heat (1949)


Postcards From Shadowland no. 9

1933 das testament der dr. mabuse

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse 1933 Fritz Lang

Ace In The Hole

Ace in The Hole – Billy Wilder

Aroused 1966

Aroused 1966 Anton Holden

Bayou 1957

Poor White Trash aka Bayou 1957-Harold Daniels

Blues in the night

Blues in the Night 1941-Anatole Litvak

Edward G Robinson-Little-Caesar with Douglas Fairbanks jr. and Glenda Farrell

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy-Edward G Robinson is Little-Caesar (1931) with Douglas Fairbanks jr. and Glenda Farrell

Experiment in Terror Ross Martin as Red Lynch

Experiment in Terror – Blake Edwards directs -Ross Martin as Red Lynch

Gene Tierney Tobacco Road 1941

Gene Tierney Tobacco Road 1941 directed by John Ford

George Pujouly  Brigitte Fossey Forbidden Games Jeux interdits 1952 René Clément

George Pujouly Brigitte Fossey Forbidden Games (Jeux interdits) 1952 directed by René Clément

Granny-The Southerner

Granny-The Southerner-Jean Renoir

Jeux Interdits

Jeux Interdits

knock on any door

Knock On Any Door 1949 Nicholas Ray

Lena Cabin in The Sky

Lena Horne-Cabin in The Sky 1943- Vincente Minnelli

Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped

Lon Chaney in He Who Gets Slapped 1924 Victor Sjöström

Modern Times Charlie Chaplin

Modern Times Charlie Chaplin 1936

Never Take Sweets From A Stranger

Never Take Sweets From A Stranger 1960 Cyril Frankel

Night of The Demon-Tourneur

Curse of The Demon- 1957 Jacques Tourneur

Peter Lorre in The Man Who Knew Too Much1956

Peter Lorre in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956

Rashomon

Rashomon 1950 -Akira Kurosawa

Repulsion

Roman Polanski’s Repulsion 1965 Catherine Deneuve

The Cobweb

The Cobweb-1955- Vincente Minnelli

The Last Laugh-letzte mann and emil-jannings in

The Last Laugh 1924-with emil-jannings directed by F.W Murnau

the sweet smell of success

The Sweet Smell of Success 1957-directed by Alexander Mackendrick written by Clifford Odets

Viva Zapata with Marlon-Brando and Jean Peters-

Viva Zapata 1952 with Marlon-Brando and Jean Peters-Elia Kazan directs


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